Hyundai i30 hatchback (2017 - ) review
The i30 is Hyundai’s challenger to some of the best family cars on the planet, and aims to take on the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.
Interested in buying a Hyundai i30?
How good does it look?
The acknowledged master of the family hatchback genre and default choice of the middle classes is the Volkswagen Golf, which probably goes a long way to explaining why the i30 has been styled to look as much like its Germanic rival as possible. All models roll on alloy wheels, but adding the optional Visibility Pack adds dual LED headlights and boosts the alloy size to a wheel arch-stuffing 17-inches. The range starts with the S, which rides on 15-inch alloy wheels, and carries on through SE and SE Nav, which add 16-inch wheels. Premium and Premium SE models ride on 17-inch wheels. The i30 N Line model features sportier styling, with the same front and rear bumper as the i30 N hot hatch. The N Line also has a twin exhaust, 18-inch alloy wheels and more performance -orientated Michelin Pilot PS4 tyres. The i30 N is the top-of-the-tree model, with performance to rival the likes of the Volkswagen Golf GTI. You can read more about it in our review.
What's the interior like?
Unfortunately, the quality of some of the materials used in the i30’s cabin undermines its credentials as a true Golf rival. The steering wheel is probably the most obvious item that lets the side down. Moulded and trimmed from some pretty basic materials and punctuated by switches that look and feel like they’ve been lifted from a discount electrical warehouse, the overall feel and appearance falls way short of the work of art that you use to steer a Golf. Some parts of the dashboard also have a rather scratchy feel, and the plastic panels that the door pulls sit in are even less appealing. It’s nothing that you’ll find too offensive if you’re used to budget motoring, but all the same, it doesn’t meet the high standards of the class leaders. All models come with a multi-function display for the centre console, but you’ll need SE Nav trim and above to get the larger 8.0-inch infotainment screen that gives you 3D sat-nav maps, live traffic alerts, and points-of-interest information. While both the front door pockets, glovebox, and centre armrest bin are a decent size, there’s also a handy place in front of the gearshifter to store and charge your smartphone, providing your device will support inductive charging. Although the seats are comfortable, they lack some support, particularly if you choose a version with no lumbar adjustment.
How practical is it?
A heated windscreen is standard on every i30, which is an absolute godsend on frosty mornings; helping you to stay snug inside while your neighbours are dancing around in the cold with the ice scraper. There’s a decent amount of room inside the i30 and it comfortably matches the vast majority of its rivals for interior space. What’s more, the transmission tunnel running down the centre of the car is low and flat, so foot space for those travelling in the middle rear seat is far less compromised than in many rivals. As is the norm in this class, the rear seats split fold 60/40 and the step in the boot when the seats are folded isn’t too obtrusive. With the seats back in place, the boot wins the bragging rights over a Golf on capacity, but if your priority is load carrying, you’ll be better served by a Skoda Octavia.
What's it like to drive?
Just as with its interior dimensions, the i30 meets the class norm for weight, but it feels considerably heavier than it is. There’s a fair amount of body roll when cornering, and when the weight of the car pitches onto the outside wheels, it produces quite a bit of tyre noise. The heavier the engine fitted to your i30, the slower its reactions, and this explains why the hefty diesel-engined car feels rather sluggish, while the lightweight 1.0-litre, three-cylinder car is the sweetest driving “regular” i30.
Regardless of powertrain, though, get the i30 heading down a motorway, and the cushy suspension really comes into its own. Floating over bumps, it feels relaxed, securely planted and exceptionally comfortable. Unfortunately, it’s not as quiet as it is comfortable, with plenty of road and wind noise intruding into the cabin at 70mph.
The i30 N Line has different suspension from the rest of the range, and some sporty bits taken from the i30 N, which results in a much more composed and enjoyable drive. If you’ve even the slightest interest in fun behind the wheel, then this is the i30 to go for, with better body control through the bends and a general sharper demeanour.
How powerful is it?
The engine line-up starts with a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol unit, which is also found in the i20 supermini. It’s only available with a six-speed manual gearbox, but it clearly stands out as the sweet point in the i30 range. It delivers willing, eager performance in everyday driving conditions it’s willing, and it emits an engaging three-cylinder thrum. That said, if you regularly carry a couple of passengers, it can feel a wee bit short on puff, especially when climbing drawn-out inclines.
If this applies to you, you will be better served by the 1.4-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine (which is the only one that’s available in the N Line model). The larger engine pulls with much greater gusto and delivers plenty of mid-range pull. It does get a bit noisy towards the top end of the rev range, but when paired with the seven-speed automatic transmission, it’s very keen to quick-shift through the gears, so seldom is the engine allowed to stray above its comfort zone. This is all well and good for fuel consumption and noise reduction, but the gearbox can all too often be caught out in general driving conditions. You’ll occasionally find yourself stuck in too high a gear with limited access to acceleration when trying to coax your way onto a roundabout.
There’s also a pair of 1.6-litre diesel engines available, developing either 110 horsepower or 136 horsepower, both of which will be of interest to business user-choosers thanks to low emissions and the resulting tax advantages that brings. Both deliver steady-yet-sedate performance that’ll be perfectly adequate for most (although there’s little performance advantage to be had from choosing the more powerful version), and both stay quiet and smooth.
How much will it cost me?
The i30 isn’t as cheap as you might expect it to be, which is a reflection of the company Hyundai expects to keep these days. It’s priced broadly the same as the Ford Focus, and a fraction more expensive than Vauxhall’s Astra, but some way cheaper than the more premium Volkswagen Golf. Using the 1.6-litre diesel engine model as an example, the i30 loses out to the Focus and Astra on fuel economy, but it’s less thirsty than the Golf. Impressively cheap service, maintenance and repair costs should keep the costs down, and goes some way to compensate for disappointing resale values. Overall, over the first three years of ownership, you can expect the i30 to cost you much the same as the Ford or the Vauxhall.
How reliable is it?
Hyundai has an excellent reputation for reliability and robust construction, and came first in the 2018 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study, which ranks the major manufacturers. We can see no reason why the i30 should stray from this excellent track record. Five years of roadside assistance and vehicle health checks are included with the standard, fully transferable, unlimited-mileage warranty.
How safe is it?
The i30 was awarded a five-star Euro NCAP crash test score, and its safety elements include six airbags, hill-start assist and brake lights which flash during an emergency stop. The i30 also comes with autonomous emergency braking, driver attention alert and lane-keep assist as standard on all models, and has two Isofix child-seat mounting points in the back. A blind spot warning system and a rear cross traffic alert function are included on Premium and Premium SE models.
How much equipment do I get?
The i30 range starts with S trim (only available with the 1.0 T-GDi 120 engine), and it comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, a DAB radio with USB and aux connections, Bluetooth, steering wheel controls and electric front and rear windows. SE cars adds 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, a 5.0-inch LCD touch-screen, rear parking assist, a rear view camera and a leather steering wheel. Really though, if you can afford it, you’ll be better off with an SE Nav model, as it brings more connectivity and comfort thanks to an integrated satellite-navigation displayed on an 8.0-inch LCD touch-screen, voice recognition, wireless phone charging and dual-zone climate control. From this point on, it’s a case of how much you want to spend.
The i30 N Line and N Line + sit above the SE Nav model. N Line includes cloth-covered sports seats, black headlining and air conditioning. The N Line + includes heated leather and suede seats with electrical adjustment and dual zone climate control.
Premium trim includes 17-inch alloy wheels, electronic parking brake with auto hold function, privacy glass and heated front seats with faux-leather/cloth covering that are electronically adjustable. Top-end Premium SE adds a panoramic sunroof, leather seats and a heated steering wheel, but it’s very pricey.
The i30 is a decent all-rounder, although it doesn’t excel in any one area. Given the right road, it’s certainly comfortable and refined, so if all you do is run up and down motorways all day, you’ll have little to complain about. Go for a 1.0-litre manual car, and it’s undoubtedly a lot of car for the money, and the N Line model is an entertaining drive without the fuel bills of a proper hot hatch. It should also prove utterly painless to own, with little to worry about thanks to its comprehensive five-year warranty. Trouble is, there are a host of motors in this over-crowded, ridiculously competitive class, that do everything the i30 does and more, including the Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Astra and Ford Focus, to name but three.